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Jerusalem violence follows high-level Israeli-Palestinian meeting
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Thousands of Muslims under 35, denied access to a sacred mosque, prayed in the streets outside Jerusalem's walled Old City on Friday before angrily clashing with Israeli security forces who had blocked their entry to the mosque.
The Palestinian worshipers threw a barrage of stones at the Israelis, who responded with rubber-coated steel bullets and stun grenades. Some of the Israeli forces were on horseback.
Two Israeli policemen were reported injured in the conflict.
The scene was repeated inside the Old City, where Israel enforced an age and residency requirement to enter Al Aqsa mosque at Haram al-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary.
The Muslims share the site -- the third holiest in the world of Islam -- with Jewish worshippers, who call the hilltop location the Temple Mount, once home to the ancient Jewish temple. A portion of a wall, now called the Western Wall, is all that remains of the structure originally built by biblical King Solomon and finally destroyed almost 2,000 years ago.
The bitter clashes followed the hopeful note of a late-night meeting between Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami -- and the discouraging news of six more Palestinians shot dead by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank and Gaza.
Talks sound hopeful note
Arafat and Ben-Ami held a four-hour meeting at Erez Crossing in Gaza late Thursday -- a meeting that one Israeli source said was "no less than excellent" while a Palestinian source called it "encouraging."
The meeting was an exploratory move to try to resume formal negotiations for an Israeli-Palestinian peace and not just an end to the current violence -- and it appears to have at least left room for more discussions on the matter.
Some sources indicated that there was a very real possibility that formal talks could get under way as early as next week in the Mideast, Europe or the United States.
Both sides said they would continue the informal talks.
Formal talks broke down in July when Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak could not come to an agreement during a trilateral summit with U.S. President Bill Clinton at Camp David, Maryland. The main sticking point: Jerusalem and its holy sites.
The Palestinians want a portion of Jerusalem as the capital of their as-yet-undeclared state. The Israelis say the ancient city should remain forever undivided -- and under their control.
Barak, who resigned last week in favor of an early election and what he hopes will be a fresh mandate for his efforts at peace, also met Friday morning with European Union president Hubert Vedrine, the French foreign minister.
Clinton, whose term ends with the inauguration of George W. Bush on January 20, has said he is ready to continue efforts at peace in the waning days of his presidency.
6 dead in overnight violence
But overnight violence belied the hopeful news. At least six Palestinians were killed.
One of the dead was said by the Palestinians to have been a leading member of Arafat's Fatah movement, who was killed just outside the West Bank town of Nablus.
The Israeli army said it killed another Palestinian at Erez Crossing when the man, who was carrying a bomb, attacked an Israeli soldier.
Another Palestinian was killed in the northern part of the West Bank.
Palestinian sources said that three Palestinians were killed in a clash near the West Bank village of Burin, but Israeli authorities denied involvement in the incident.
The Palestinians say at least five of the attacks were unprovoked, while the Israelis say at least two of the incidents followed "aggressive actions" by the Palestinians.
CNN Correspondent Jerrold Kessel contributed to this report.
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